Article Details

Customers Want Menus (not essays).

Published Date: June 28, 2023

Crafting a good menu can be the ultimate recipe for success.

BUT it is an art that needs mastering. A well thought out menu will attract and retain customers, so take the time to get it right. Here are a few tips to get you started. 

Menu length.

While your menu should be creative and appeal to customers, having an enormous number of menu choices is not necessarily a good idea. You don’t want to overwhelm the customer and make them feel like they’re taking a multiple-choice exam rather than ordering lunch!

Likewise, if you’ve got 32 cafe menu items and an extra 30 beverage options, you and your staff are likely to feel the pressure of preparing and presenting everything consistently well each time it is ordered. Even if you get that right most of the time, having an enormous menu makes gaining insight into cost control difficult.

The fact is keeping COGS at 30% or less is more complicated than ever, so having a smaller, more manageable menu with a few specials makes sense on every level. It will be less stressful for you and your team, your time will be somewhat freed up (giving you a better work-life balance), your bottom line won’t be a controlled punt at the end of the month, and your customers won’t need a compass to navigate the sea of choices. Of course, each cafe is unique, but that old saying ‘less is more’ often applies to cafe menus. Ten to twenty items on both food and menu items is a good starting point.  

A feast of words or verbal overkill?

How many dining establishments (cafe or otherwise) have you visited this year with menus that include phrases like “on a bed of…” “garnished with…” “topped with …” “finished with …” or loaded with? Nowadays, a simple comma, a few “&’s” and maybe a “housemade” here and there are enough to separate words on your menu. It’s enough to say “nestled beside a stack of pan-fried mushrooms”; we don’t need to overload the menu with so many long-winded, hectic descriptions that customers need Google Translate to decode it.

How creative does a menu need to be?

Again, a touchy subject and a common “awkies” moment between owner and chef, BOH and FOH, but when nailed, it just sings! Customers want to enjoy food and beverages served by a welcoming, cool, calm, and collected crew. Ambience, morale, and level of service are determined by operational control, so don’t stitch yourself and your team up with an overloaded menu. Keep it manageable and stay in control by offering fantastic service backed by a compact and creative menu that can be easily updated seasonally.

If you feel you could use some help in these areas, reach out and book a Creativity & Menu session. You can also read our How to Set Creative Limits article for more information.